Last season saw primarily three players getting playing time in left field: Matt Gonzalez, Ryan Peurifoy and Keenan Innis. Of the three, I only really expect to see Peurifoy get major playing time here. With the other two, I expect to see them get the majority of their playing time at other positions (Gonzalez at third and Innis in center).
Peurifoy had a great year last year, finishing with the best batting average on the team (.324). Overall, he had a very solid season: .324/.386/.451, two home runs, 18 RBIs. He wasn't able to replicate the performance during his summer season though. He finished the summer with a .228 average, one home run, 12 RBIs and two stolen bases in 33 games (92 at-bats).
His main competition will come from true freshman Brandt Stallings. Stallings, who is also a potential option at first base and DH, is an absolute monster with the bat. Here's what I had to say about him in FTRS' Infield Preview:
Though he is listed as an outfielder per RamblinWreck.com, Stallings also has the ability to play first base. He brings another tremendous bat to Georgia Tech's lineup. While in high school at King's Ridge Christian School, Stallings broke a school record by finishing his career with 23 home runs over his career. In his senior season, he was named to the 2015 First Team Louisville Slugger High School All-American Team.
Ultimately, I think Stallings is destined for left field, but I think for the time being, there is certainly a possibility that he sees a little bit of time at first this season.
With Kel Johnson likely manning right field again, I stand by my prediction here that Stallings is destined for left field.
The wildcard option here is Air Force transfer Coleman Poje, who is a contender for each of the three outfield positions. In his two seasons at Air Force, Poje started in 31 games, finishing with a .218 batting average, two home runs and 11 RBIs. He's not the greatest defender (six errors in his total time at Air Force), though. The important thing, here, is that he brings another body and bit of depth for Tech's outfield.
As for the starter, I will say it is Ryan Peurifoy, barring some circumstance, such as Kel Johnson playing first, moving Brandon Gold to third and Matt Gonzalez to left field, which would result in Peurifoy playing in right field. So, in my given line-up, I will stick with Peurifoy in left to begin the season. By the end of the season, however, I believe that Brandt Stallings will be able to overtake hime.
Projected Starter: Ryan Peurifoy
Unfortunately Tech no longer has Daniel Spingola patrolling center field. He had a bit of a rough year last season, but I don't think anyone will be forgetting his numbers from a couple years ago when he was arguably Tech's most dynamic player.
But those days are gone now, and Tech has to find his replacement. Fortunately, they have a viable candidate in Keenan Innis.
Innis has had playing time at each of the three outfield spots in his two years at Tech thus far, but with his speed and range, his best fit is in center field.
Last season, Innis had the second-best average on the team. He finished with a very solid stat line: .310/.370/.392, no home runs (11 extra-base hits), 15 RBIs and 5-of-6 in stolen bases.
Like Peurifoy, Innis was unable to carry over any kind of success in the summer, finishing with a .200 batting average, no home runs or extra-base hits, three RBIs and one stolen base in eight games (25 at-bats).
You could make the argument for Peurifoy in center field, but I feel as though his range is more limited than that of Innis, so I think he's a better fit for one of the corner spots, even though Peurifoy's arm is far superior.
Projected Starter: Keenan Innis
Luckily for Tech, there are plenty of capable players that could be in right field. I think they'll go with the guy that spent the majority of the time there last year, though, in Kel Johnson.
Johnson, a freshman phenom last season, played great baseball until he tweaked his ankle, which derailed his season. He still finished with a great stat line, though: .298/.369/.570, 10 home runs, 34 RBIs and a team-high 55 strikeouts.
He's an absolute beast with the bat, and with the total stat line, there are some good things and some bad things to draw from here. The good is that even in spite of leading the team in strikeouts, he still managed to put up a batting average near .300. This just means that when he's putting the ball in play, he's getting base hits, some of which could be because of luck.
The bad is what happens when that luck isn't quite working for him. And that's what happened this summer. Johnson hit .151 with one home run and seven RBIs this summer in 14 games (53 at-bats). He also managed 24 strikeouts to just four walks. These numbers can also be partially blamed on that same ankle injury that plagued him during the season, as it lingered into the summer.
To become a more complete player, Johnson will need to work on reducing those strikeouts while also learning to take more walks. If he can work on that, he will definitely be set.
The strikeouts won't keep him from being a starter, though, as he, to my surprise, played very good defense with no errors last season.
The only way I don't see him being the starter in right field is if that same situation I mentioned earlier comes back out here, where Johnson moves to either first base or DH, both of which are entirely possible, though I believe doing that could hinder his potential for a professional career. I say let him get his shot at playing right field so he has that experience for the pros.
Projected Starter: Kel Johnson
It seems like just yesterday that I was writing about these guys as freshmen just getting on the Flats. And now, they're getting to be starters. It's an exciting time for Tech's outfield, as this is only the base for what this outfield could be in terms of potential.
We've all seen what Kel Johnson can do when healthy, but now we get to see what Keenan Innis and Ryan Peurifoy (the top two guys in batting average from last year) can do with a full year of starting. Not only that, but they will also have Brandt Stallings, who brings another great bat, right behind them. It's exciting stuff folks!
|Left Field||Ryan Peurifoy||R/R|
|Center Field||Keenan Innis||L/R|
|Right Field||Kel Johnson||R/R|
How will Tech's outfield shake out?